Alexander Calder’s Circus is an avant-garde artist’s reimagining of a great popular tradition. Constructing his pint-sized figures out of wire, wood, cloth, and whatever else came to hand, Calder created a comic meditation on life under the big top. Paris, London, and New York—including Cocteau, Mondrian, and Miró. In this conversation Jed Perl and Joan Simon will discuss the artistic milieu in which Calder created his Circus and its status as an essential work of the modern imagination, which combined the high-wire excitement of the circus and the poetics of experimental puppetry, setting the stage for Calder’s invention of the mobile in the 1930s.

Jed Perl is the art critic for The New Republic and the author of books including New Art City and Magicians and Charlatans. He is currently working on the first full-length biography of Alexander Calder.

Joan Simon
is an independent curator, writer, and arts administrator. As curator-at-large for the Whitney Museum of American Art she co-organized Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-1933, in a partnership with the Centre Pompidou.